Before we jump into this week’s episode, I just want to remind you that I have a free resource that you can get that will teach you a method of prayer journaling. This is a method that I created by hearing lots of different people’s ideas. And I found something that worked for me and I am excited to share it with you so that it will spark an idea for you about how to reimagine your prayers and make them more meaningful for you. So you can go to the show notes. You can click the link to get the free prayer journal video, or you can go to my website and find the link. I am really excited to share this free resource with you. And now onto the episode.
[00:01:03] Darla: Welcome to the Spiritually Minded Women podcast. This is Darla. As always, I am so grateful to be here. I love doing these interviews and I have a great guest for you today. Her name is Audrey Perry Martin, and she is here to talk to us about something a little bit different. This interview is going to be a little bit different than most of my interviews, but I’m very excited about what she’s going to share about a nonprofit that she created called Project Elect. So Audrey, welcome to the podcast. I am so happy to have you here.
[00:01:27] Audrey: Happy to be here. Thank you for having me.
[00:01:30] Darla: Thank you so much. Would you just take a minute and just introduce yourself? Tell everyone a little bit about you.
[00:01:35] Audrey: Yeah, absolutely. So I am a election lawyer.
I went to law school long ago, so long ago now. And have been in politics for almost 15 years now. I’ve got three daughters. I live in Northern California. I’ve been working in politics so long that I’ve gotten a little cynical about politics and gotten a little frustrated by all the partisanship that’s going on.
And it’s a zero sum game, right? The politicians and the media, they’ve got their quippy talking points. They battle on Twitter. And it doesn’t seem like there’s a lot of compromise or decision-making going on. And I’m an idealist. I started out as an idealist. I want to still be an idealist and really want to make a difference in the world.
But then I get out of law school. And I went to law school in DC and my first job out of law school, I worked on the Hill for Congress and my boss went to prison while I was there for the lobbying scandal of the day. And I found out later several of my colleagues had been wearing, wires were wiretapped by the FBI while I was working with them.
And, it was just like this terrible experience. But I still kept in politics. I worked on the Romney campaign. I worked on the McCain campaign. Worked for Romney again. I’ve lost pretty much every campaign I’ve worked on. But in between, and after those campaigns, I worked for political law firms.
I’ve represented politicians, campaigns, billionaires, corporations and just done a lot of political stuff. And campaign lawyers, we get all the dirt, we know everything that’s going on. We clean up all the messes and it wears on you after awhile. And every election cycle I got more and more cynical.
And I’ve worked with really great people, but I also worked with a lot of awful people. So that’s where I was about a year ago before I started Project Elect. And, after all those years of politics, I’d gotten worn down a little bit.
[00:03:19] Darla: Okay, so you did a little pivot. So tell everyone more about Project Elect and what that is because what you’re describing is like this political world. And I’m like, yeah, I never want to be a part of that, but you’re actually trying to help women engage and be a part of it. Tell me about how did you get there and what does that look.
[00:03:36] Audrey: Yeah. So, Project Elect, what it is it’s a nonpartisan nonprofit organization. And our goal is supporting women members of the church to seek public office and get more involved in public service. And we really just want to gather women of the church to help each other and support each other and build each other up as they get involved in public service.
And we really believe that church leaders have been really clear in calling for more members to engage in political life and including by running for political office. And. It feels like maybe the experiences and perspectives of women= of faith aren’t really being adequately represented in local politics and national politics.
And we wanted to really specifically focus on Latter-day Saint women because it seems like a lot of them don’t really see themselves as eligible for public office, but at the same time, some of them are uniquely qualified for public office because they understand their communities and they would be such wonderful leaders in their communities and hopefully be able to shift the dialogue a little bit in politics. And I understand the desire to stay out of politics as it is right now. But at the same time, if we all don’t engage in it, then we can’t help solve the problem. And I think we have a responsibility to engage so that we can help solve the problem.
[00:04:52] Darla: Yeah. I think about Elder Oaks’ talk from the last general conference, like he came right out and said, engage and run for political office. And he was talking to men and women, but surely he’s not excluding women from that.
[00:05:04] Audrey: Yeah, exactly.
[00:05:06] Darla: And also, 2020 was the anniversary of suffrage, and Utah women played such a big part. Latter-day Saint women have played such a big part. We have such a rich history that I don’t think we really know a whole lot about. So somewhere along the way, we’ve forgotten that. But what is this history like? What were those Latter-day Saints in the early church, the women, what were they doing politically that we could look to and say, we could be like that.
[00:05:31] Audrey: Yeah, exactly. The women in Utah in the early days of the church were some of the first women to be, to be involved in politics in the United States. The first woman known to cast a ballot in the U.S. was Brigham Young’s grand niece, Sarah Ford. The first female state senator from Utah was Martha Hughes Cannon. And like you said, we literally have church leaders telling us to get involved. You’ve mentioned President Oaks, President Ballard also said in a recent conference, men, and women shouldn’t hesitate if they desire to run for political office at any level of government, wherever they live.
And so I feel like, it’s even in the church handbook somewhere saying, get involved in local office. And I feel like they’ve been pretty clear that this is something we should be doing. And also, if you run for local office, you’re not suddenly going to become a lifelong politician. You can serve a term or two and then recruit someone to take your place.
And in local office, especially isn’t like politics on the national level. You’re serving your community. You’re helping those you live around. And the decisions you make have a real, very real impact on your family, your fellow board members and community members, families. And I think, especially after COVID and during COVID people have really gotten a better appreciation for the importance of local government, because it really has impacted our lives.
Where you live has really determined a lot of things during COVID. And people have realized, oh, great. Local government actually is important. It actually matters. Maybe this is something we should get involved in. And I think Latter-day Saints should in particular be considering getting more involved in their local governments.
[00:07:03] Darla: So I’m sitting here thinking okay, thinking for myself, maybe I could do this, but literally the last few years, since the last election, on both sides, so much mudslinging, and so much, just negative vibes and I’ve just tuned it out. I don’t even want to go there.
So how do I even start? What would a woman who says, okay, I do see the value in being in involved in my local government, but I don’t even know where to start. What do you say to a woman like that?
[00:07:29] Audrey: So we have a lot of resources on our website to help guide you and direct you if you are considering running for office.
So I would say go to our website, projectelectwomen.org, and check out the resources we have there. We also do weekly power hours where we bring in people who are campaign experts and they talk to you about fundraising or how to get volunteers or all the basic campaign 1 0 1. Things.
We’ve got a list of organizations that do campaign trainings that are leadership trainings and those sorts of things. There’s also all kinds of things you can do that can get you ready to run for office. If maybe it’s not your season to run for office. Maybe then you could apply to be like on the parks and rec committee in your city or town.
Or some other commissioner board or your school site council or something like that. Those are great stepping stones to run for office because you get to know your community better. You get to know the people in your community, people who might help you run for office later. And so those are all things that you can do before running for office.
There’s so many resources out there to help you learn how to run for office. There’s just this wealth of information. A lot of them are free or it cost like $25 for five classes or something like that. They’re really supplemented well, so it’s not that difficult to find the resources.
You just have to take advantage of them.
[00:08:54] Darla: And definitely your website is a great place to start. I like how you said, cause sometimes you think, oh, I have to run even just running as a state senator or state representative, that feels big, but there’s other things that we can do that to be involved in and you give us a place to start.
[00:09:09] Audrey: You don’t have to run for senator right away. You can do some other things in your local community, get your feet wet. And you can also help on other people’s campaigns and get a feel for it. You can volunteer for your friend who’s running for office or your local party or something like that.
Be a delagate to a convention and kind of get a feel for how politics works in your community. Because it also, it varies a lot from city to city, from state to state. Local politics has a different feel and different rules and different ways to engage in every locality. So it’s good to figure it out where you live and get involved in. Build your network and community there. And you’re in while you’re doing that, you’re also helping your community. And there’s also a missionary component to it as well, where you’re going out there and meeting new people. And maybe not if you live in Utah County, but if you live outside of Utah County, there’s, all these opportunities to get more involved in your community and meet more people and all of those types of things as well.
So it’s a win-win.
[00:10:08] Darla: That sounds really great. What about, you alluded to this, like the missionary work, but what do you think are, or maybe you’ve seen this with women that you’ve worked with, what are the spiritual aspects that come into play when you’re, when you decide to run for office or get involved politically? Have you seen anything with that with women that you’ve worked with or yourself.
[00:10:27] Audrey: Yeah. So it’s been really amazing talking to women from a spiritual standpoint because that’s something that we can open up in our organization. A lot of political organizations don’t talk about that.
So we’ve loved being able to ask women about that, who run, and have them open up about it. We have a couple of videos on our website actually with elected officials who are like talking about their spiritual experiences running for office and their experiences with their family, helping them and those types of things that are really powerful testimonies of what they’ve been able to accomplish and what they’ve been able to do and how the Spirit has guided them.
I feel like the Spirit hasdefinitely guided me on my path. And like I said, I was really tired of politics and kind of felt like something was missing and I would pray and pray about what I was supposed to be doing and whether this was what I was supposed to be doing. Why was I in politics?
Something just didn’t feel right. And I just kept getting this feeling like I needed to be patient and wait. Which was hard for me, cause I’m not patient. I want to just do it. But this went on for years and I had this idea that I was supposed to do something with women and specifically Latter-day Saint women, but I didn’t know what it was.
So I waited and then one day, a woman in my state called me and she told me about some problems that she saw that were going on with the local school board. And she wanted some political advice on what to do, and I totally brushed her off. I told her there was nothing she could do. They weren’t going to listen to her.
There’s too much red tape. I gave her all of my cynical, defeatist views and basically just told her to give up, but she didn’t listen to me, luckily, and she gathered all these Latter-day Saint women together, and they all chipped in their own skills and their own resources to lobby the school board, and to get the changes that they wanted and what started out with just a few women members, it grew, and it grew, they brought in other faith and community groups and they ended up turning this into this incredible grassroots movement that would have cost thousands of dollars in the political world. And these women put it together with no money, no political experience. And it really blew me away how effective they were able to be.
And so one day during the whole process, I was sitting in the school board meeting and a woman got up who was opposed to what the Latter-day Saint group of women was advocating for. And she was really mad. She was emotional and upset. And when she was done speaking, she went back to her seat and she was sitting by herself because there weren’t really that many people who agreed with her there.
And I was sitting right behind her. And immediately when she sat down, one of the LDS women left her seat where she was sitting with her friend, and she came and sat next to this woman, and she put her arm around her and she said something along the lines of, thank you so much for sharing your perspective on this issue. Your thoughts really touched me. I really appreciate you telling us about your experience.
And watching that, I was almost in tears right there because I had never, in all my years in politics, seen anything like that where someone just manifests this genuine concern and compassion for someone who disagreed with them and was actively fighting against them and who didn’t treat that person as an opponent, but as a person to befriend and understand.
And, at that moment, it was just like the answer to my years of prayers was like a bolt of lightning came to me that I had known there were these competent and talented, amazing women, but to see them in action in the political sphere, it became so clear to me what an incredible impact for good Latter-day Saint women could have in the political community. And I knew I was supposed to start an organization to help and encourage Latter-day Saint women to get involved in public service and that’s how Project Elect was born. And so I felt the Spirit guiding me in this work and in my work in public service. And it’s been incredible. in that way and many others.
[00:14:09] Darla: I’m like tearing up over here because I really felt the Spirit when you were telling that story. That’s a beautiful story and such a great example of what a Latter-day Saint woman can do in her community when she gets involved. And you know what you said, like the one woman went and found other women and they came together and they have all these skills. And you think about our experience in the church? We’ve been missionaries. We’ve been leaders. We’ve ran meetings. We’ve done so many things. A funny example, not really political, but I was getting my hair cut by my friend who is a Latter-day Saint woman. She lives somewhere where there’s not a lot of Latter-day Saints and she wanted to plan a graduation party with her son’s friends’ moms. And there were four of them all together. She was the only Latter-day Saint. And they got together to plan this party.
She was like, okay, we can do this. We do this. This is what we do for food. And they just drop their jaws and we’re like, how do you know how to do this? She’s telling me the story. And we know how she knows how to do that because she served in the church and she’s done all this stuff.
And I think the same could be, you could say the same thing about in a political arena and what do you think about this? This is a thought that I’m having. We’re just having a conversation here, right? So I’m going to ask you this. I’m just thinking, we can come in to politics as Latter-day Saint women and we don’t have to do it the way it’s currently been done.
[00:15:19] Audrey: Absolutely.
[00:15:19] Darla: How have you seen women come in? This is an example that you’ve already shared, but how do you think we come in and add something so different that’s so needed to that realm?
[00:15:28] Audrey: So I, I really think that we have a different perspective on leadership than I think people outside of the church might have.
One of the best examples I’ve ever had of a leader is my grandpa. So Elder L. Tom Perry was my grandpa and he just the best for so many reasons. And I’m not sure you remember much about him, but he was just this outsized personality.
[00:15:48] Darla: I met him a few times. I love him. Yes, he’s awesome.
[00:15:51] Audrey: Yeah, he would all the time, every minute of the day, he’d build up everyone around him and it was really deliberate and constant and it was often embarrassing as his grandchild, but it was really incredible as well, because, so for example, he lived like a block from Temple Square. And every general conference would walk to conference and he easily could have driven and parked in the tunnels and walked in, but we always walked and if you’ve been to Temple Square on general conference weekend it’s so crowded and all the people recognize him on general conference weekend. And so he’d leave two, three hours early and stop and talk to everyone and he would shake hands and try to say something to build every single person up he possibly could in those hours before each session. He’d be like, what a beautiful family you have.
That’s a great profession you’ve chosen. Keep up the good work as elder’s quorum president, whatever it was. And then it would make it to the conference center and it would make the rounds behind the scenes. He’d stop by where the choir was and ask a few of them what they were singing and how he’s looking forward to it.
And we’d go talk to the translators and he’d praise their work and tell them how smart they were and on to all the behind the scenes people. And, we’d run into other general authorities. And when that happened, he’d brag to them about his grandkids individually. Like ,this is Audrey. She’s the smartest sixth grader you’ll ever meet. She just won this dumb award, like whatever silly interest I had at the time. And it was mortifying, but it was also amazing.
And what he knew was that the best kind of leader builds up those around them. They build they praise and encourage, and that’s something that we’re lacking in our political leadership these days. Politics is all about who can score the most points on Twitter and quipping cable soundbites and short-term gain and building each individual politicians brand, which, I think most of us can agree isn’t the best way to run things.
And I think that the type of politician turns a lot of Latter-day Saint women off because if running for office is about self-promotion and fighting on Twitter, a lot of them aren’t interested in that, but if you look at the good leaders throughout the ages, the ones we remember, they were the ones who lifted up, who inspired, who brought people up with them.
And so what Project Electis about a lot of it is we want to be a place where women can lift each other up and learn how to be the type of leaders that are lifting others and where we can explain how public services service the community, where women can help each other run for office and promote each other and support each other, encourage each other on a local level.
The LDS women in a ward or stake can say to one another, Hey, you’d be great to run for school board. I want to help your campaign. Or I think you’d make a great mayor. I’ll be your first donor or, so much about our community. Why don’t you apply to be on the city planning commission? And these women will have a community behind them that has their back and they will help and support each other.
And I think having that sense of community and that ideal of lifting up everyone with you and that type of leadership style is really what we need and something that I think Latter-day Saints can really bring to the political arena that is missing.
[00:18:50] Darla: I love that. Love your story about Elder Perry. He’s amazing. And I’ve heard other similar stories about other general authorities and that’s how we have been taught and trained to lead in the church. And you’re so right about that. Something that I was thinking when you were talking, I thought about a talk by sister joy Jones, and I’ve shared it before on my podcasts, but she talked about the, I can’t remember the name of the talk off the top of my head, but I think it was an April, 2020, and she talks about the roles of women in the church and that we have all these different roles, but we don’t have to do them all at once. She talked at the end and she shared that there are four preeminent roles. And one of those, the very last one she shared was to be an extension of the Savior’s love to other people. And you think about, there’s lots of ways to do that, but this might be one way that I can do that just to go out and just be someone who is Christ-like and who cares about other people and wants to lead the way that Christ led.
And that is a way that we could be an extension of the Savior’s love because you may not be able to go to someone in the political realm and bear your testimony about the Savior, but you might be the only person or you might be the way that they come to know the Savior is because they felt something through you and they come to know him and it just gives us another avenue and another way to be able to do that.
I just, I love this message that you’re sharing. Do you have any examples of someone who’s like us, like an everyday Latter-day Saint woman who has gone out there and done something in the political realm.
[00:20:14] Audrey: Yes. So one of my friends, so I talked a little bit about the school board stuff. So one of my friends actually ran for school board after all of that happened and she is a mom. She’s got five kids. She lives in Rocklin where I live, and she ran for office and got elected right before COVID to the school board. And she has been amazing. It has been such a blessing to our community to have her on the school board because the person she replaced is checked out wasn’t that invested.
And she is so invested. She had been PTA president at the high school before. She is amazing. She can do anything. She’s running everything in the stake for awhile and she is phenomenal. It has been hard. I think being on a school board the past year and a half has been brutal.
Cause you can’t please anybody, but she has been trying and she’s been listening and she’s been really working as hard as she can to do what’s best for the kids. And I think that’s all you can really ask from somebody on the school board is to really be engaged with the community and doing their very best to do what’s best for the kids.
And so I think, she’s been an incredible blessing to our community through, through this really rough time where schools have been kind of ground zero for the political battles that have been going on in the past last year and a half.
[00:21:36] Darla: That is a great example of someone making such a difference.
So how do you work through, you’ve been in the political arena for all this time and you’ve watched other women. How do you work through that? Not everyone’s going to like you and sometimes as women, we don’t like the confrontation. We want everyone to like us. And how do you work through that?
People are gonna say things about you that are hurtful maybe, or how do you develop that thick skin and get over that?
[00:22:00] Audrey: I know. You do have to develop a thick skin. And I think especially these days where people can say whatever they want on the internet without any consequences.
It’s hard. And I think you’ve gotta be careful about what you actually look at because you don’t need to read all the trolls on Twitter. You just, you don’t need to. And, but you do have to let it roll off your back a little bit. At the same time, replying kindly and I think you have to really think about how the Savior would act. And I think what you were saying earlier with Christ-like leadership, I think that’s a big part of it. If you have that in your mind at all times that you are trying to be a leader like Christ would be, I think that helps you respond in a way that it doesn’t hurt you, and you don’t respond back in anger, you respond back as you think the Savior would respond back with love. And I think if you can have that kind of buffer of love, it makes a big difference. And I think people respond to that. Not everybody, but most people respond to kindness and love. Even if they’re mad, even if they don’t like what you’re saying or don’t agree with you politically. They respect that and that can help. And I also think it helps to have a community behind you, which is part of what we’re trying to do with Project Elect is to have a strong community of women and have mentors for women to have a group where they can come and just talk about this when it’s happening.
And, say this happened to me and have someone else who’s run for office, say, something similar of it to me. This is what I did. And just have people who you can come, it’s a safe place to talk about what’s going on and communicate with other women who’ve had similar experiences and who’ve gone through similar things.
[00:23:41] Darla: It’s so great to have women come together and to be able to support each other. There’s just something special about women coming together.
And then also as Latter-day Saint women, we know who we are. We know our divine identity. And I think that could help us as well to know I am a beloved daughter of Heavenly Parents, and I know how to access the power that they can give me. And I know how to tap into getting guidance and direction from something way beyond this world.
Have that divine thing inside of me. So I love that encouragement that we have other women out there. We can come to Project Elect and get that support. And also know that we have the support of our Heavenly Father. If we’re following the Spirit and we feel guided to do this, that He’s not going to let us down.
He’s going to be there. It doesn’t mean that it’s going to be easy. There’s going to be hard things that we’re going to, but we’re going to learn and grow. And that’s why we’re here. That’s what the covenant path is all about. So Audrey, I have loved talking to you. I’m very, I just feel so much that there are so many things that can women can do that we maybe didn’t think we could do before.
And you’re opening that up to so many women and also to younger generations that can see strong women doing things and making a difference in this world. I love that mission. And I would still like to ask you, I know we’ve had a little bit different of an interview, but you have shared your story so beautifully, and I would love to know how you’ve seen and felt the Savior on your journey on the covenant path.
[00:25:03] Audrey: I think especially with so many ways I’ve seen the the influence of the Savior on my covenant path. But I think specifically when I was starting Project Elect and really praying about it. I’ve had this moment where I knew I needed to start it, but I was dragging my feet a little bit because I was terrified.
I was really scared. I’d never done anything like this before, and I’m so much more a behind the scenes person. I’m much more comfortable behind the scenes on campaigns and, like being the lawyer and not putting myself out there, out, out in front. But I prayed about it.
I knew I needed to do it. And the Savior knew I would be scared and I would try to back out of it. So he sent people to help me. And the way the board for the Project Elect clicked into place was really incredible. I’d sent a couple of tepid emails about this idea. I had two women I’d never met and they we’re all over it. They just replied resoundingly. And once these women were involved, they did let me back out of it, which was fantastic. Then I reached out to a few of the amazing women I’d known during different seasons in my life. Literally from high school through my political career and everyone I talked to you wanted to be involved.
And so when we hit road bumps and I feel like giving up, which has happened a few times, as soon as I kneel down to pray about whether we should keep going and whether this is really what I should be doing, I just get hit with this calm reassurance that soothes out my fears and insecurities, and just gives me the faith and courage to keep going.
And it’s really been amazing for me ‘because I don’t always feel that. And I often get anxious about things, especially when, it’s like in the public and I’m talking on podcasts and things like that. So that’s really been the thing that’s gotten me through this whole process and the support of other women that I feel like were brought into my path by the Savior and the love and support that I feel from Him whenever I turned to H im.
[00:26:55] Darla: so beautifully said, and I think we’ve come. I think there’s a theme here. We’ve talking about like women supporting women, there’s just something so special and sacred about covenant keeping Latter-day Saint women coming together. And we are a force that cannot be ignored, like where you’re going to do great things.
I love that you’re living in your gifts. I’m doing what I feel called to do. If everyone just does what they feel called to do, we are going to do so much good in this world. And we all have a loving Savior who is right there beside us. So thank you for beautifully sharing your testimony and sharing with us about your experiences and how you are trying to live in your purpose and do the things that you feel like you’re called to do.
I’m so grateful to get to meet you and thank you so much for coming on.
[00:27:33] Audrey: Thank you so much for having me. It was so fun talking to you.
[00:27:37] Darla: And I will link up everything in the show notes. So people want to go and find you we’ll put the website and everything. So thanks again. I appreciate it.
[00:27:44] Audrey: Sounds great. Thank you.
[00:27:47] Darla: And now here are this week’s journal questions. Think about the leadership skills you have gained through church service. How can you use these skills to bless your community?
Write down your thoughts of ways you could serve in your neighborhood school or community.
Audrey shared how following the prompting to start Project Elect wasn’t easy, but a support system of other women helped her to move forward through the obstacles. How can you support the women around you who are trying to follow promptings?
Pray for guidance to know who around you needs support and then write the promptings you receive.
And this last one isn’t really a journal question, but you know I don’t want you to just listen. I want you to act on what you hear on the podcast. So are you feeling the nudge to be more involved in local government? Act by going to Project Elect website at projectelectwomen.org and learn how you can get involved.